Friday, February 26, 2010

Yeh hai Radio meri Jaan!

Ever since private FM radio stations exploded into our lives, the radio has become ubiquitous. You switch off the radio at home, get into the car and put on the radio and then when you get off to go to the departmental store, they are playing the same station more often than not! Life is at its musical best. 24x7 music and youth talk fills up households. Each station competing with the other for air time and delivering what is most popular. Read Film music with a smattering of local news and views. Each FM station sounds like any other. Genetically engineered clones. Non stop chatter and non stop music. Only, you get the feeling that music here is on the back seat. It’s more like a filler piece that is disconnectedly sandwiched between small talk. Only a very small percentage of the shows actually end up discussing the music they are playing. It’s like arranging a song in between a prerecorded monologue.
Memories of my childhood summon pictures of the radio playing at home long before the television gate crashed into our lives and after it. With a radio, you don’t have to sit at a place and spend your time. You can get entertained while going about your chores and work. Radio was switched on at 5:55 in the morning with the still resonating violin theme followed by the news and then the music rolled on. Vividh Bharati has retained its charm in spite of all the competition. And what I like best is the variety. Predominantly film music, these are played under different shows. You have those on old film songs, new songs, request shows, music from one film, or a particular theme, ghazls, pop music, classical music, folk music, intercviews and even plays! More importantly, As a result, I can hum more than just the opening lines of song I know, and I can recollect more information on the songs thanks to AIR RJs and their presentation that includes mentioning the name of the movie, singers, music director and lyricist. You did not just enjoy music but learnt to appreciate and admire the great artists behind the making. Listening to private FM channels, I don’t know which movie they are from or who has sung them, let alone who the music director or the lyricist is.
These days you can email you requests or SMS them. But for the rest, Vividh Bharathi has not changed and I fervently hope they don’t ever.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The other day I was driving and had a minor accident. As a result the left rear view mirror is denuded and without a cap. It must have been my fault right? After all I am a woman driver.
I was waiting at a signal at the right extreme on the road with no more space to my right. As the signal turned green and we started throttling up to move on, this huge white van rammed into my left mirror which is hinged and it snapped shut with ferocity. I stared at the van as it drove past feigning ignorance. Really, what could I do? Chase after him brake in front of his vehicle and get out flexing muscles? Besides at that point I only thought the mirror had snapped close. Only later did I see the extent of damage inflicted. By that time, the van was a distant memory. So many instances have I experienced when vehicles have brushed past scrapping denting ramming nudging and yet they never stopped. And mind you it was never a woman driver whom I confronted. And I wonder if I ever did anything like that I am sure I wouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. A major crash and everyone rushes in to help or join the heated exchange of blames. In fact the locals take over the dispute. The escape is blocked. The victim is given reassurance. But these minor brushes are almost always over looked. No one bothers. The victim pays.
So I drive with a bruised car and I swear it’s not been my fault most times. If you are in Kozhikkode and see a scratched pink Estilo, its probably yours truly.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fish Diary 3

Ash died. :(
We found him at the bottom of the bowl, lifeless. He probably died hungry. I had never seen him eat. But with every passing day when he still swam about, I hoped he was eating something when we didn't look. Perhaps he didn't.
The three fishes are now in one bowl.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that I'm losing her forever
And without really entering her world
I'm glad whenever I can share her laughter
That funny little girl

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what's in her mind
Each time I think I'm close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake, I let precious time go by
Then when she's gone there's that odd melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt I can't deny
What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
(Slipping through my fingers all the time)
Well, some of that we did but most we didn't
And why I just don't know

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what's in her mind
Each time I think I'm close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers

Slipping through my fingers all the time

Schoolbag in hand she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile


Ash is now black. I can barely tell him from Pele just that he is still a little smaller. These black sharks have silver stripes on their body and are quite magnificent. But dud wits they remain. The goldfish go for the food almost as soon as I put the food in. The sharks take a long time. Will I be able to put the two couples together in the same fish bowl? I so long to. But then again, the sharks are the more intelligent. They get in a frenzy trying to escape capture swimming round and round at a maddening pace as I found out trying to relocate them. I had a tough time changing the water in the bowl. But on the other hand its so easy to catch the goldfish. I wonder why they don’t struggle.
Have they been conditioned to docility after years of fishbowl culture? Perhaps they no longer remember the times when they were free and not imprisoned in a fish bowl. They have genetically evolved into these fish bowl creatures. Beautiful. Destined for Captivity.
Looking at these fishes in their bowl always remind me of these lines by Pink floyd from their cult classic ‘wish you were here’.
We are like two lost souls
Swimming in a fish Bowl
Year after year

Its poignant. I feel the helplessness. It would have been better to see them struggle and fight, show some spirit. But this acceptance of whatever comes.. this fatalism...

So many people I see around
Stuck in their lives like these fishes.
Dulled into acceptance.
With no fight left or a memory of it
Pecking what comes their way
Knowing not passions and failures
Success and disappointment.
Love and hatred
Pain and relief
A life devoid of desires
Just breathing
Waiting for the morningless sleep
Or are these enlightened beings?
Above the dualism of life
Peaceful without desires
Perhaps they swim
In contemplation
Of spiritual things
Laughing at me
As I peer down on them
With my eyes dripping pity
Running from one unfulfilled desire to the next
Stuck in the wheel of life?
An ignorant low being?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Time is a two faced monster
Bolts when you want it to trudge
And The Creep crawls when
You have nothing to do but
Wait for a blip
On the faraway horizon
Looking ahead into the hazy future
A day feels like an age
Look behind and half a century
Seemed to have passed in a blink

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Some days
living life like I am
Aimless at times...
lethargic at other
Running sometimes like the hare
Wincing at the clock in his paws
On pensive evenings
I get the feeling
That time is running out
I can almost hear
the grains of sand falling
There is some unfinished work
Something more I had to share
Before the knell resounds
Death of a poet
An obituary to Girish Puthenjeri

I have grown up listening to music since my parents were music lovers. I heard malayalam music on tapes they bought or on AIR. When I started living in Kerala since my marriage five years back, I for the first time got in close contact with the language, the culture, the music particulary the fabulous flim music. My love affair with malayalam music has grown steadily over the years. And that is how I came to hear of his name - GIRISH PUTHENJERI. Every other song on radio seemed to be written by him which indicated the popularity of the songs he wrote . His was the only name among songwriters that I was familiar with other than the geat Vayallar.The name had such a nice resonance befitting a poet.
Though unfamiilar with the language I grew to appreciate whatever little I understood of his lyrics.
Amma mazhakaaril kannu nirenju Aa kaneeril nyan nanenju
The clouds of motherhood swelled with tears drenching me in the deluge
I was shocked to hear of his demise particularly since I had no inkling of his recent illness. As I watched the news coverage of his death I got to know the genius that he was. The whole Film Industry seemed to be grieving. I felt a sadness, inexplicable, since I did not know too much about him or his work. It saddened me to learn he died too soon at 48. He probably had so many more years of great work ahead of him. Or may be he did all that he could have achieved in his life time in a prolific career spanning 25 odd years. As Queen sang, "Only the good die young"...Freddie Mercury, Curt Cobain, JIm morrison. Outstandign muscicians or poets. They left too soon. Making us yearn for more. They chose to burn out rather than fade away.
The sky darkened as if in gloom. uncharachteristically at this time of the year. Perhaps nature mourned the demise of its favorite spokesperson.
A little after his cremation which the media covered like hawks, they moved on to other fresher subjects with an ease I found hard to duplicate. The chirpy songs on the radio seemed incongruant. Like we hadn't mourned enough. Like the world should stop for some time and grieve an irreplaceable loss a little while longer.
Ghalib knew what he was saying when he wrote
Ghalinb e khastha ke bagair kaun se kaam bandh hai
Roiye zaar zaar kya keejiya hai hai kyon

So thats it. Death, the most significant moment in our lives is just another event in the lives of others. Few tears are shed. Few lives of near ones will be altered irrevocably. A few sighs and then everything is back to where it was.
But a poet never dies. For he lives on in his verses delighting us, moving worlds, shatterring dogma, stirring up emotions... shining like a beacon showing us the way ahead.

As your heart bled
And you stripped your soul naked
The dripping red droplets
Became verses on the page
Clothed in music
They adorned a lover's lip
An aeon away
Burnt to ashes now
Find the peace
Your heart yearned for.
Sleep now
On Earth's bosom
Heavy with tears shed for you
Being married to a sailor, one question i am always asked is... How do you survive living separately? I think its the emotional dependence that they are talking about. These are from couples or friends who have probably never lived apart even for a single day. Before i met my future spouse i couldn't imagine it myself. I knew of friends who got married and continued to live in separate cities (sometimes countries!)because they worked there. (Eventually one of them got a transfer and they got together). I had wondered how or why they would want to do it. I guess I had no clue I was walking down the same road.
So how do I survive? Like I tell my friends.. Do I have a choice? So you live. You find reasons to keep your mind occupied. The first week is the hardest. The fact is you miss a person even when you are in the same house! When you are busy with your respective chores, you wonder what the other is up to...
I have learnt to switch my emotional buttons off.
But see the upside. When my spouse is back he is home. These days couples both working long hours, sometimes different shifts hardly get to see each other except during weekends which is spent buying groceries! You don't really get to see your children grow up unless you take a vacation. And also when we are away, we get our space. We bloom as individuals and yet the ties keep us together. I am not sure if that is so bad!
Besides, Distance stokes passion like winds that stoke a fire!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Bottle your scent

I would if I could,
Bottle your scent.
Preserved for posterity.
In small crystal vials
Labeled, stored on the kitchen shelf
High above behind pickle jars
Safe from prying, careless hands

So, when you are grown up
When you no longer need me
Trudging ahead to your independence
Calling me across spaces
From a faraway distance

I, old and wrinkled.
With fading memories
Of the delight you brought to me
I, alone in the empty silent house,
Pull out your old rag dolls
The busted car with three wheels
The shoes that I hid with squeaky heels

Racks of albums and yellowed
Pictures in which you grew up
My favorite here… wrapped in pink
Eyes closed, contented
Head resting on tiny hands
Scratched Cds I will play
To watch you cruise again
Or watch you mop the floor
With baby hands
Peering through the horn framed glasses
I will watch you
Mouthing the first syllables
Feeding the doll with the lotion bottle

I will bring down the vials
And sniff-in your innocence
The smell of your unwashed hair
Your pastry breath after a feed
Clean soft pink feet after a bath
Clothes dirty with food and mud.

And for a moment when I close my eyes
I can still touch and feel you
Like you were born yesterday
Misgivings of an apologetic native

Who am I? I ask.
Where am I from? I wonder
Bred outside in other cultures
Born away from my native land
Visiting on summer vacations
Speaking gibberish
I am an apologetic native
I am lost. I don’t belong.

Assimilating all that I saw and heard
In different hues, coloured.
No longer have I an identity
My own is lost in
A cauldron of odour
Restless like the wind. A free?
Or a loose?... spirit.
Bound for a nomadic existence
Searching for a rest place.
Where I can put up my feet
Where I belong

But are we not all nomads?
Mere mortals, from birth to death?
Stamped with a culture
By the accident of birth
Showing off our identity
See? I belong.
Defending, possessing.
Accusing, Judging
Departing from the stage
When the role is over

Ask not where I am from
For I cannot answer truthfully
Ask not where I am going…
I am like the river forging its destiny
Through rugged unknown land
Like the wind am I
Blowing across frontiers
Breathing in the smell
Of a thousand and more
enchanting cultures
I, a weary confused traveler,
Am just passing thru’
In this transient illusion
A verse to my parents

Dear mother
I love thee
I never showed it
For I never learnt to
I borrowed the words of my soul
From cards I chose with care
And hoped it would make up
For the truth I was too cowardly to share
Oh mother
Now that I am one too
I understand the pain you went thru’
And not just when I was flung out
From the warmth of your womb
Into this scary world
But oh on so many nights of pain and ague
When you held my fractured soul
When you put me first above all your needs
And indulged and spoilt me over
I still crave for the security
Of the beautiful home you keep
The doors always open
The food always warm
And on dark nights of rain and thunder
When I cringe under the sounds of the heaven
I feel reassured
For you slept in the next room
Mother Thank You
For inspiring
For nurturing

Dear daddy
You are my friend
In good times and better,
We had fun without end
You worked hard to bring home the bread
You drank the hardship of life
Till your throat turned blue
I understand you
Your impatience, your temper
For I am so like you
I understand your sulks and your moods
For I inherited them too
You love sitting at home in the rain
And that’s the way I like it
We may not so often talk
But I am proud to be the chip of the old block
Dear father
You expected a great deal from my self
But I chose to follow my whims and dreams
But I hope someday you can
Let rest your frustrations
I didn’t get where you wished to see me
But I am where I like to be
Thank you for the guiding hand
The encouragement and yet restrained
The safety net when I fell
The push when I needed to go ahead
Thank you
For pushing
For consoling

Saturday, February 06, 2010


Travelling by train always fills my heart with joy. Its probably nostalgia, reminiscent of summer vacations and the long trip to my hometown. More than a bus or any other form of travel, a train journey is in itself a destination, cherished.
I travelled recently from Calicut to Tellicherry by train. A mere hour and 5 minutes journey time... But that was enough to send my heart jingling. There were these college kids flitting in and out of the coupe' looking like they rule the world. Nonchalant. Confident. Knowing they are watched. With faces glowing in radiance with dreams of their future. Not unlike horses raring to go.. to take on the world. I remember when I was one too. Albiet a little shy... wary of unwanted attention often imposed on a woman travelling alone. And yet adventurous. That was a decade back! I loved being 25. Young enough so life was still a clean slate. Old enough to know good from bad. The slender period of independence juxtaposed between the dependence and the dependents... I wish time could have stopped at that age. I think a tiny part of me got frozen at that wonderful age.
As one of the rambunctious college frequent stood near the door right next to my window and broke into love songs, I couldnt help but think... had I been younger I would have got peeved at that... embarassed.. thinking every whistle was aimed to pique me. Every song was sung to grab my attention and I would scrupulously avoid all 'amorous' eye contacts. I would hide my head in the hole in the ground like the ostrich! Now, at few days short of being 33, with a toddler asleep in my arms.. I was grateful and took it as a compliment. Which is more, I hummed along...:)